I’ve never been one to suddenly turn on some Christmas music switch come December 1, in part because the supermarkets of Brooklyn will inevitably force it on me, and in part because the ones I tend to like most seem less than strictly seasonal. (Big Star’s “Jesus Christ” was the best I could come up with when recently grilled by Ms. Beck.) But given that the’ vinyl-only, free-at-retail, X-mas-gift compilation from D.C.’s Carpark Records falls into my synth-y contemporary beat, I hit up a few stores to track it down ultimately finding it behind the counter at Other Music. I will now ungraciously dissect its contents.
The eight-track record has a fine roster of participating artists, and mixes a few reinterpreted old standards, a few non-Christmas but winter-themed tracks, and a few non-specific outliers. Class Actress’ “Silent Night” and Dan Deacon’s “Silver Bells” are the Gallant and Goofus of the oldies set. Deacon takes the Christmas song as Internet meme approach, orchestrating dog barks, kitten mews, duck quacks, and maybe some goat gurgles into an piss-take of Bing Crosby’s smooth, nogged-up 1950 track. You will not want to listen to it twice. Class Actress’ “Silent Night” is notable for dropping all of that band’s neon slickness for a solemn, strummy nod towards singer Elizabeth Harper’s folkie roots. I prefer her noir electro, but that probably would have felt weird in context. Cloud Nothings, who are 2012-buzzy already ahead of a Steve Albini-produced record due in February, are brief and uncharacteristically avant-groovy on “Chew, Chew the Christmas Grapes”. But it’s over before the promised second chew.
Less thematically limited, the remaining tracks are allowed to be more diffuse. Chicago’s Light Pollution go soft and sniffly on “Canada”, which is suitably wintry but sort of demands to be the opening credits music of some CW soap set in Toronto. “Jam Karet” by local synth band Young Magic is a shimmery tinsel bomb that fails to add up to much, but ambles in a pleasant way. Signer singer Bevan Smith goes wispy-thin on “Languid Too 25-08”, but backs himself up nicely with a bright, minimal thump. Toro Y Moi caps off a banner year with the sleepy, late-90s hip-hop looping of “Promise Brings” which is kind of a sketchy trifle, but could portend an interesting new wrinkle for his pop career. The sweetest cane in this particular stocking is Memory Tapes’ cryptically titled “No. 79”. Dayve Hawk’s uneven sophomore LP, Player Piano, nonetheless proved that he had songwriting chops that should carry him past “Chillwave: Where are They Now?” retrospectives. “No 79” is a strong, nimble pop song and the one thing included here that totally justifies its existence, if not its Christmas bona fides.
So, better than a box of sox. Thanks, Carpark!